LEANING over one of the first examples of Aston Martin’s new One-77 supercar to look at the engine, my belt buckle comes within millimetres of scratching its left, front wing. The room falls silent, a couple of the engineers look agitated, the PR guy looks ashen. I have come as close as I ever want to come to damaging a £1.2m supercar halfway through its 2,700 hour build process. The body panel has been hand-formed by metal crafters, prepared and hand-painted for 100 hours and attached to a carbon fibre chassis. Also, the entire car has been assembled by hand. At the very least, the car would have to be disassembled and the aluminium panel replaced, and the complete car repainted – hundreds of hours of work for nothing. I feel stupid.
I have been in hospitals as clean as this but I can’t remember when. The room is all white, including the floors, and the technicians wear white gloves before they touch the cars. It’s more like a surgical theatre than a production line, yet this is the specially-built facility where Aston Martin will build just 77 examples of its One-77 supercar, at its headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire.
So what does £1.2m buy you? The One-77 is ultra-exclusive, and uniquely-engineered from strong, lightweight components including carbon fibre, aluminium and magnesium. With its V12 engine, the car should deliver 750bhp and 750Nm of torque, and be capable of more than 220mph. As the car has a front-mid layout, the engine sits behind the front wheels, which means the car has a 50:50 weight distribution, massively enhancing its handling.
Every single element of the One-77 has been designed and engineered to weigh as little as possible while maximising the car’s performance. The car is constructed around a body tub – similar to the way an F1 race car is made – from carbon fibre and extruded aluminium. This tub is then dressed in aluminium body panels which are hand-formed to create the kind of highly sculptured shape – of accurate and clean lines and edges – that a machine would struggle to form. This means the One-77’s design team has had the artistic freedom to achieve perfect proportions. The majority of the One-77’s lines are by design rather than as a result of manufacturing necessity due to engineering or production limitations. The car has a very limited number of shut lines; for example, the rear of the car – from the doors back – is one large single aluminium panel, except for its rear window which gives access to a small amount of interior storage.
The most striking feature is undoubtedly the car’s face. The shape of the front wing is fantastically complex and incorporates gill-like cooling vents and a complex lamp design that gives the car its aggressive appearance. Meanwhile, the side mirrors seem to be extruded from liquid metal, then pulled from the door’s skin, enhancing the sensation that the One-77 is a living, breathing thing.
At its best, the One-77 is a delicious combination of design and engineering, elevated to an art form. Because of the nature of the car’s construction, functional components that would usually remain hidden from view have been dressed up to become part of the car’s aesthetics in order to save weight. The structural carbon fibre tub is also the primary interior trim material. Inside the car, this lacquered carbon fibre is combined with machined billet aluminium components and luxurious leather.
The most extreme example of this is that the car’s suspension system is part of the internal design of the interior too. These components are usually hidden from view, but in the One-77 you get to share cockpit space with them. The car’s dampers have been mounted horizontally – instead of vertically – at the front and back of the car. This has maintained the car’s swooping low profile to maximise road holding and so as not to add unwanted height to the car’s design. At the rear, the car’s suspension sits inside the cabin. This means the finishing of these components has also had to be perfect. With a cover in leather, the juxtaposition of traditional materials with the technological; of craftmanship with advanced engineering, is electrifying.
As you would expect from such an exclusive car, the ability to tailor an interior to your own personal taste is almost limitless. Buyers will face a number of decisions on how to customise their car, and this is not just restricted to interior colour and trim. Even the suspension can be adjusted for individuals and buyers can also choose to tune the degree of feedback in the paddle shifts to suit their style of driving.
The first of the 77 cars are almost ready for delivery. By the end of 2011 all of them will be built and delivered to their 77 fortunate owners who will get to own the most desirable, and most extreme, Aston Martin yet.